Human Ecology

, Volume 31, Issue 3, pp 403–416 | Cite as

Cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz), Cyanogenic Potential, and Predation in Northwestern Amazonia: The Tukanoan Perspective

  • W. M. Wilson


The Tukanoans of northwestern Amazonia cultivate high-cyanogenic potential cassava, which provides 80% of their dietary energy. In an effort to understand why the Tukanoans cultivate primarily high-rather than low-cyanogenic potential cassava, which requires far less processing before consumption, this paper seeks to determine whether the Tukanoans discern a difference in levels of predation on high-and low-cyanogenic potential cassava. Given the potential protection afforded by high-cyanogenic potential, it was hypothesized that the Tukanoans would report higher predation upon low-cyanogenic potential cassava in comparison to high-cyanogenic potential cassava. Both unstructured interviews and pile-sort exercises were conducted to address this question. The unstructured interviews provide some support for the hypothesis, while the pile-sort interviews did not support the hypothesis. These data demonstrate that while the Tukanoans are cognizant of differences in predation on different cassava cultivars, resistance to predation may not be a characteristic of paramount concern in cultivar selection.

manioc yuca swidden agriculture Amazonian Indians crop selection 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • W. M. Wilson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ArchaeologyUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada

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